Staff and friends of Melbourne Theatre Company were saddened to hear of the death of actor Lewis Fiander on the 24 May following a recent stroke. We will remember him for his long association with the Company and his many important roles in Australian theatre.
He was born in Melbourne in 1938 and began his stage career as a schoolboy with the Australian National Theatre Movement in Melbourne. He went on to become a successful young radio actor in Sydney and appeared in the first Australian television play, Sub-editor’s Room for ABC TV. In 1959, he was asked by John Sumner to join the Union Theatre Repertory Company (the precursor of MTC) for their seventh season, appearing in The Waltz of the Toreadors, Arms and the Man, Venus Observed, Sweeney Todd, Prisoner’s Country, The Entertainer, Moby Dick – Rehearsed, and returned in 1961 for The Mystery of a Hansom Cab. The following year he joined the Elizabethan Trust Players in Sydney, with whom he toured nationally for a season, before going to London to perform as Hughie in the Trust’s production of Alan Seymour’s The One Day of the Year.
At the recommendation of John Gielgud, he was offered a two-year contract with West End management H M Tennent, after which he joined the first National Theatre Company at the Old Vic, directed by Laurence Olivier. His first starring role in London’s West End was the American musical 1776, in which he played John Adams, a part he was later to repeat in Australia. Other parts include Benjamin Disraeli in the musical I & Albert, Jack Rover in the commercial run of Wild Oats for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and Noël Coward in Noël and Gertie. He appeared many times on British television series in the sixties, most memorably as Mr Darcy in the BBC’s 1967 version of Pride and Prejudice.
Returning to Australia in the mid-seventies, Fiander, settled in Sydney and worked extensively on television and stage. In the nineties, he returned to Melbourne Theatre Company to play Elyot in Private Lives, Bernard in Arcadia, and Histangua in A Flea in Her Ear. He was last seen on stage for the company playing the Burgomeister in The Visit in 2003 and Gordon in Enlightenment in 2007.
Our condolences go to his family and friends.